The Steelton-Highspire School District is located just outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In a move to overcome years of budget challenges, the districted recently installed 3500 solar panels on an old landfill.
These panels generate 1.7 MW of power, supplying electricity to the district’s elementary school, high school, and administrative office. Through a 20-year agreement with a local solar developer, the district anticipates saving $1.6 million, which can be allocated towards teacher salaries and facility upgrades.
Thankfully, school districts like Steelton-Highspire could soon be receiving far more support from the Pennsylvania state government.
Solar for Schools
In late June, the Pennsylvania state house passed House Bill 1032. The bill would create a Solar for Schools grant program for large-scale solar arrays in K-12 public schools, community colleges, and career technical schools. The bill is now being deliberated by the Pennsylvania State Senate.
According to CleanTechnica, less than 2% of the state’s schools rely on solar energy. A majority source their electricity from the regional grid, primarily fueled by coal, gas, and nuclear energy.
According to the nonprofit group Generation 180, approximately four methane gas generating stations worth of carbon emissions could be eliminated if all K-12 schools in Pennsylvania implemented average-sized solar systems.
Democratic State Representative Elizabeth Fiedler serves as the primary sponsor for the Solar For Schools bill. According to Fiedler, the legislation would offer numerous benefits for the state. In addition to promoting Pennsylvania’s transition towards clean energy, it would generate job opportunities within the solar industry.
Moreover, the bill would reduce schools’ utility expenses, allocate funds for infrastructure upgrades, eliminate the necessity for towns and cities to raise taxes for educational purposes, and establish educational programming on renewable energy for students.
The enormous benefits of the Solar for Schools program have caused House Bill 1032 to receive bipartisan support. Republican State Representative Jim Marshall described the bill as a “great opportunity.”
Numerous states have implemented comparable programs that have shown positive outcomes. In the year 2021, the Minnesota Legislature approved legislation that designated $16 million to fund solar initiatives at primary and secondary schools. The legislation also granted $5 million to community colleges.
Minnesota’s program received a total of 122 applications from schools across the state. According to the website of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, there has already been a higher demand for Solar for Schools grants than the currently available funds.
Solar for Schools offers enormous benefits for Pennsylvania. Its reduction of local school taxes is especially helpful to low-income school districts like Steelton-Highspire.
By creating jobs, cutting taxes, improving teacher pay, and increasing educational programming, the Pennsylvania Solar for Schools program is a win-win-win-win.
Image Source: Rob Altenburg, https://shorturl.at/bEV19